Sailing: Field arrives first in a flash: Whitbread Race fifth leg finishes

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The Independent Online
AT LAST the potential which had been threatening for so long was fulfilled by Ross Field's Yamaha when he won the fifth leg of the Whitbread Race here yesterday, took the overall lead in the 60-foot class, and put some pressure on second-placed Lawrie Smith for the last-leg dash across the Atlantic.

The reception was dampened, not just by rain, and illuminated by lightning. As the yacht tied up a disgruntled Nance Frank, who had originally chartered Field's first boat for US Women's Challenge, served writs on Field's campaign manager, David Glenn, on Yamaha and on the Whitbread race organisation.

She complained of material damage following departure from the race at the end of the first leg but Glenn was dismissive of a move which he sees as unwarranted. Of more immediate concern is the need to fly boatbuilders in from New Zealand to repair an alarming bubble in the hull beneath the fixing for the starboard mast shrouds.

Nothing could diminish the near 120-mile advantage which Field had gained on Smith, which ensured that Yamaha not only took over as 60-foot race leader but could expect to put at least eight hours in the bank for the last 4,000-mile decider.

He was also set to take a big chunk out of the 20 hours by which Grant Dalton's maxi, New Zealand Endeavour, leads the whole fleet. Dalton, who has had to cope with hull delamination, was an estimated nine hours behind Field, though he had reduced to just 12 miles the lead of his rival Pierre Fehlmann in Merit Cup.

With Dalton continuing to make gains, both were expected to finish overnight, with Smith timing his run for a 5am arrival local time today.

Field had predicted that things might come good on this leg up the Brazilian coast and through the Caribbean. 'We pushed ourselves very hard,' he said. 'It was our weather and we sailed the boat better than on previous legs. Everything gelled.'

Results, Sporting Digest, page 35